If you are facing the heartbreaking situation of having a parent with dementia, you are probably very concerned about his care and safety. You want to make sure he is getting the care he needs, and you worry about his living conditions. If he is not willing to consider moving into an assisted living facility, you may be asking, who gets to decide where my father, who suffers from dementia, lives?
First Things First
A diagnosis of dementia does not necessarily mean he must immediately move out of his home. Go with him to his next doctor’s appointment and ask his doctor if he must move into an assisted living or memory care facility. Be aware, however, that even if he can live at home safely now, you do not know when the disease will progress, and he will wander off, accidentally set the house on fire, or forget to eat. If you are confident that your dad must move into assisted care, you have several options.
Talk with Him
Do not assume that your father will oppose living in a care facility. For all you know, he is scared, too. He may be torn between his fear of his vulnerability and his pride in feeling he does not need help.
If he is still physically fit, he may genuinely feel he need not go into a care facility. This mindset is understandable, since his generation thinks of assisted living centers only as places for people who are feeble and bedridden.
Family can try to gently convince him that a care facility is in his best interests. If the family is not unified in this opinion, however, you must deal with a new set of problems.
How to Include Your Parent in the Process of Finding a Care Facility
Find assisted living centers with memory care expertise, then take him there to visit and look around. He may be envisioning “old school” nursing homes that were bleak and depressing. When he sees how the facilities for the aging have evolved, he may be pleasantly surprised and stop resisting the move. When you find several places that will meet his needs, have him choose the one where he will live. This tactic will let him retain some control over his life and preserve his dignity.
If Your Parent Continues to Resist Assisted Living
Ideally, one of the tactics discussed above will work. If your dad continues to oppose the move, check his legal documents to see if he gave anyone authority to act on his behalf. If he has a durable power of attorney or a medical power of attorney, you or someone else close to him might decide for him. However, you should have an elder law attorney read the document to make sure that it covers your situation.
Social services might help. Contact your local senior services agency to see if they will perform an evaluation. In certain situations, they can step in and facilitate the move. Once they are involved, you and your father will lose control and independence.
In a desperate situation, you might have to take your dad to the emergency room for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation. The hospital may transfer him to a geriatric/psychiatric hospital that can develop a care and treatment plan.
For a long-term solution, you might have to go to court and get a guardianship. This process is expensive and can take months, but you might get an emergency guardianship pending the permanent guardianship. You should not try to get a guardianship without the help of an attorney.
The laws that apply to seniors are different in every state. Talk with a local elder care attorney to formulate the best plan for your parent.
Alzheimer’s Association. “Telling a Person That They Need Long-Term Nursing Home Care – Care Consultation.” (accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.alz.org/maryland/documents/telling_a_person_that_they_need_long_term_care.pdf